If You're Only Going to Read One Absurdly Long Magazine Piece Today….


….make it this Walrus magazine opus by Richard Poplak, entitled "Heavy Metal and Revolution in Egypt." It's an extended excerpt from Poplak's 2010 book The Sheikh's Batmobile: In Pursuit of American Pop Culture in the Muslim World, and it focuses on Egypt's harassed but indefatigable "Metalien" subculture. My favorite scene in a piece full of 'em:

Later, on the patio, I sat across from Sameh Sabry. He called himself Slacker, and he is the scene's unofficial archivist. We were worn out, wrung dry, stupid with dehydration. Still, Slacker arranged himself with élan on the plastic patio chair. He spoke like a philosopher steeped in both Socrates and Scorpions. […]

"My question to you is: Would you stop listening to the music you loved if someone was going to throw you in jail for it? If the answer is yes, then you don't love the music enough. I have been charged for Satanism; I have been called a devil worshipper. Many times. My name has been in print — with my age, my school — I was waiting for them to come for me. I did not change. I did not hide. You want a piece of me — come get it." […]

Slacker leaned back in his chair and moaned at the sky. "I love the American spirit — because it encourages you to be a hero. They make you feel big even when you are doing something small. And the reason why I love America is that I see the differences and I like the differences." […]

"It is crazy to live in this Middle East. The humiliation from Israel. The humiliation from America, even though I love the spirit. The humiliation from crazy governments. The crazy people. The crazy traffic, the noise, the pollution.

"We are the damned, man. Sometimes I don't know how long I can last. I fight for my life, buddy. I should give this up. But I can't."

We sat in silence, listening to the El Bodega shake from the rage of the music within, fluorescent lights flickering under a dirty Cairo night sky.

"It is the same here in Egypt as it is everywhere, is it not," asked Slacker. "A gathering of friends who love a small piece of culture beyond anything else. Here are young Egyptians and Saudis trying to find their identity. Through this, we assert some kind of difference from the crowd. This is the way of the Western childhood since the fifties, no? It can't be a bad thing. After all, where would all this aggression otherwise go?"

Whole thing here.

Read about "Rap and Metal in Planet Islam" in our December 2010 issue, then treat yourself to a luxurious re-read (as I did last night!) of Charles Paul Freund's foundational 2002 piece "In Praise of Vulgarity."